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Are you bugged by SMS polls? Vote now!
Sidin Sunny Vadakut

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October 04, 2007

I know this sounds a little weird, but are you getting the feeling, as I do very much, that there is a little too much democracy going around nowadays?

Now before you get all "How dare you crib about Democracy you totalitarian imbecile!" and attack the message board mercilessly, not to mention potentially send around people to burn my 2BHK down, let me clarify a little bit and get a head start gathering my valuables and bank statements.

I have nothing against the concept of a democratic government. In fact, I am all for a system of government whereby the leaders of the nation and its key policy initiatives are all determined and directed by citizens from all over the Gandhi household.

Indeed, democracy gives the common man like you and me a chance to direct the course of our lives, as and when we want it. For instance if there is something about the country that is bugging any one of us, we can right away step out of our houses fearlessly, catch a taxi at leisure, go to the American consulate in South Mumbai without a care in the world, apply for a visa and then move permanently to the US, where the quality of life is outstanding.

Such are the wonders of a free and fair democracy.

No. I have absolutely no issue with this noble concept of Democracy upon which much of modern civilization and government rests. Without Democracy, we are but a nation that disallows reincarnation.

Puzzled? Don't be. Let me explain. A month ago, the government of China noticed that people were reincarnating helter-skelter without a care in the world. The people in Beijing [Images] were beginning to lose track, and this was quickly becoming a huge crisis of a magnitude not seen since that incident when the Prime Minister of China, after a few drinks in a disco, said: "Dammit -- I'm leaving. This Party is so lame."

All hell broke lose after that one.

Now, in a democratic country like India, this problem would have immediately led to formation of a Judicial Enquiry into Reincarnation. The enquiry commission would present a report after due study by a panel of legal experts all specifically chosen for their experience in the area of "sitting at home after retiring from Law and rapidly running out of savings."

But in China, in the meantime, they had an emergency meeting:

Official: "Sir, we have a problem with --"

Prime Minister: "Ban it --"

Official: "Cool. Sign here please."

And therefore it is now banned in China to reincarnate without informing the government in advance in, I assume, with forms in triplicates with attestations, current and future postal address and all that. This has dampened the otherwise high spirits of all reincarnators in China.

So, clearly I am all for democracy. But of late this public opinion thing is suddenly getting out of hand.

Take for instance the "Taj Mahal as a Wonder of the World" thing.

The entire Indian media machine made you feel like a traitorous anti-national fiend if you did not pick up your cellphone and immediately vote for the Taj. It was almost as if you were Chetan Sharma after that dreadful ball.

Headlines blared:

"Vote for the TAJ now! SMS TAJSCAM to 2323 now to register your vote! Be a proud Indian! Help us improve our top line this year! No we are kidding! It is all about patriotism!"

Millions fell for it. The Taj Mahal was voted to the top seven and immediately loud celebrations began all over India in homes of people working in the cellphone and television industry.

Suddenly, your mobile phone has become the prime tool of expression. No media company worth its salt, except of course Rediff, not have at least one SMS or online poll running at any given time. Entire media stories are being driven by the potential to convert it into a half-attractive poll.

This is a true transcript of a meeting in a media company that I made up a few moments ago:

Reporter: "Sir there has been a terrible devastating earthquake!"

Editor: "Where?"

Reporter: "Err I don't know"

Editor: "How many times must I tell you to research the story completely?"

Reporter: "But I made it into an SMS poll!"

Editor: "How?"

Reporter: "Where did an earthquake happen recently? SMS A for I don't know, B for Somewhere and C for New Zealand [Images]!"

Editor: "Excellent. Especially the cunning use of a real country's name!"

But the true extent of this SMS fever raised its head during the recent Indian Idol [Images] competition.

Indian Idol, as we all know, is an exciting reality TV show that has produced some of the nation's best singers.

Note: The above is a line from an Indian Idol press release.

In reality, winners of these singing competitions fade away faster than Ram Gopal Ki Aag from theatres. But in the brief moment they are on stage, these aspiring songsters manage to draw crores of text messages, some of which are not sent from the TV channel's offices.

During the recently concluded Indian Idol 3 competition, apparently some seven crore text messages were sent in for the final competition -- seven crore messages at perhaps an average of 3 rupees per message; you do the math. How they do this is by provoking people's sentiments in a most subtle manner:

"Vote for Gopalan Nair who is an excellent singer and also a true blue Malayali from Kottayam whose victory will be a great thing for the Malayali community all over India and the world! Put an end to those pheno-menon, debo-nair and tea shop jokes now! But let that not affect your judgment. Choose the best singer only on merit! As long as he is from Kerala [Images]!" is a sample announcement during any of these competitions.

This is an outright manipulation of people's sentiments, and I would like to know who comes up with these cash-grabbing ideas as I wish to start a competition of my own and retire early to that 3 bedroom flat in Noida.

Now, at this point in the article, I know what you are thinking. "What about that interesting anecdote about the elections in Bulgaria? Surely it is time for it?"

We have come to that.

Bulgaria will be conducting local elections soon and, in the spirit of Democracy at its best, over 70 parties and coalitions are in the running for 264 constituencies.

So many people are running for elections that the ballot paper is, and I'm not kidding, six and a half feet long. It is pure coincidence that this number is almost exactly my height, as I tell it to women I chat with online. This has caused severe problems for the Bulgarian government (the ballot paper, not my chatting) and last Thursday they had to import 11 million large-size envelopes just to hold these out-size ballot papers.

"Who knows? Maybe our boxes are too small too! We will get to know soon enough!" a Bulgarian minister said.

Which raises one very important question that I suggest all of you respond to immediately:

Did you get funny thoughts also when the Bulgarian fellow said his box was too small?

A) Of course. Ha ha!

B) Did not understand

C) Pass

SMS your answer to Rediff right away and help a poor columnist buy an imported car with your life savings.

Earlier columns:

More adventures of the Vadakuts, mister and missus, can be found at Domain Maximus.

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